Major Problems with Chilean Salmon Farms

02 Aug

New articles posted by Grist and Civil Eats showcase more bad news from Chilean fisheries. They are on the verge of collapse. The news about these fisheries is terrible on several fronts. First of all, farmed fish from Chile make up 90% of the salmon sold in the United States. Second, the fish in Chile have been infected by infectious salmon anemia (ISA). The farmers tried to move their fish further south, where the virus had not be found yet. That did not work. The virus is now located in the southern waters as well. Next, the farmers decided to ignore FDA regulations and administer large quantities of antibiotics to these fish. The Pew Environment Group obtained documents proving that the fish were being given, illegally, antibiotics. Those documents have been passed along to the FDA. The FDA notified the three companies that were using the antibiotics that they are no longer able to sell their fish in the United States. It is unclear if the FDA will enforce these restrictions. Also, it will be difficult for the FDA to know when the antibiotics are used. 

According to Civil Eats, “at this rate a 20% shortfall in the global supply of farmed Atlantic salmon is predicted for this year as well as 2010.”  My last post explained that if the total tonnage of fish caught or farmed declines it will cause the price of fish to increase and it will also cause a net loss in the pounds of protein available for human consumption. I stand corrected. This may be true in some cases, but it is not true for the Chilean salmon. Chilean salmon are fed wild fish. It takes three pounds of wild fish to put one pound of meat on farm raised salmon. They are functioning at a loss of two pound of protein per pound of salmon meat. The wild fish that are fed to these salmon are edible. Humans can eat them without any problems. But the salmon have a higher value so this loss of protein is actually economical even if its wasteful. The good news, if that’s what we are calling it, is that salmon naturally consume fish. Cows don’t naturally consume corn, so I thought it needed to be researched. 

I have to admit that I was not sure if wild-caught or farm raised fish was considered better for the environment. According to the Monterey Bay Aquarium wild-caught salmon is the best option and farmed salmon should be avoided. 

Here is a prime example of how consumers can exercise their control over the industry. Chilean salmon farmers dumped 325,616 kg of antibiotics into the ocean to protect their fish from ISA. Water is fluid. These antibiotics are not going to stay in a confined space. They will disperse in the ocean. Also, the fish can, potentially, bring antibiotic resistant microbes into the United States, which will harm Americans. Plus, it requires three pounds of wild fish to put one pound of meat on farmed salmon. These are serious concerns. The FDA has stated that the fish that were exposed to antibiotics will not be allowed in the United States and hopefully these regulations will be up held. No matter what happens, you can have an impact. It’s called “voting with your fork.” You do this by only buying (in a supermarket or restaurant) fish that are wild-caught or refuse to by Chilean salmon, their Norwegian counterparts use a fraction of the antibiotics used in Chile. Companies will respect your message. 

The goal is for companies to raise salmon in a more sensible manor. A net loss of protein is a colossal waste. Also, to stop using massive quantities of antibiotics. I am saying that I want to see the industry change. I do not want to see 15,000 Chilean workers lose their jobs if or when the Chilean salmon fisheries fail. But antibiotics nor migration have worked to prevent the spread of ISA. Maybe, someone could figure out how to market the wild fish, which are currently used to beef up salmon, to US consumers. Maybe, that is just wishful thinking.

1 Comment

Posted by on August 2, 2009 in Sustainable Agriculture


Tags: , , , , , , ,

One response to “Major Problems with Chilean Salmon Farms

  1. Peter

    October 15, 2009 at 1:51 pm

    Salmon is freely available in the supermarkets. It is a luxury which could only be afforded by the rich – now everyone can enjoy it. Farmers have the technology to free ranch their salmon – hatch them and release them into a river to which they will return – if this was done on sufficiently large scale, surely, the world could be supplied with luxurious food uncontaminated with antibiotics.
    True, ranched salmon do not provide 100% returns, only a small percentage of released salmon manage to return – but the scale of the operation could overcome that.
    Governments should reward good practice.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: